How to perform SEO keyword research

Ruth G. | October 14, 2020
35 mins

How to perform SEO keyword research

If you run a blog or a website, you have heard about something called SEO, and its frequent sidekick, keywords. Keywords help decide whether your articles will be read, YouTube videos will be found, or your website can be discovered by people searching online for businesses. Regardless of the type of content marketing you do, keywords are your friend.

The primary way people find your website is by searching on a search engine. In a process known as optimizing, or choosing the right keywords for your industry, the best choices help people to find you. Keyword research involves choosing a focus topic and targeting the keywords where you want to rank. Your list of keywords then allows you to monitor how your website is ranked in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) that Google and other search engines show in response to a person’s search query. Many assume keyword research is a stab in the dark, but that simply isn't true. It allows you to know if your site is performing well, or if you are doing something wrong with the keywords you’ve selected.

Keyword research is market research for the 21st century

Brick and mortar businesses, print editorials, shops, and fanzines have always had to do market research; the same applies to websites. To create content that ranks well organically and drives visitors to your site, you need to understand those visitors' needs. With keyword research, you can discover and take advantage of the language your potential customers use when looking for your products or services.

Keywords largely determine the traffic you get to your site. For example, If you run a golf shop, you might want to rank for "new clubs", but you might end up attracting traffic for people searching for a new place to dance after dark instead. Selecting keywords is as much about your content as your audience. Web content needs to reflect the language and the type of content they are searching to find.

To create content that ranks well organically and drives the right traffic to your website, some research is involved. Begin by talking to your customers or learning about them in forums. Then pull out your research keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner.

Admittedly, researching keywords for your business can be a tricky process without the right guidance. You need to find examples that work with your company and are aimed at your target audience. This page will help you understand how to use keywords to help Google and the other search engines understand what each page of content on your website is about.

In this guide, we're going to show you how to do keywords research the RIGHT way. Follow these nine keyword research tips to get the traffic, leads, and sales you need. I'm going to lay out a process you can follow to help you come up with and narrow down a list of terms you should be targeting. That way, you'll establish and execute a strong keyword strategy that helps you get found for the search terms you care about.

Understanding keywords

First things first: what are keywords? Why practice SEO? We should be on the same page here.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is, as the name implies, the art of optimizing websites for search engines. So, why do we do this? To rank higher in search results pages, also known as SERPs.

Using the actual words that people search for is the single best way to help our ranking. Think of keywords as any words and phrases people type into search engines. We call these search queries. For example, this page has specific keywords that we are targeting, including how to do keyword research, keyword research tips, and keyword research tools. We optimized this article to appear in these search queries.

Your primary keyword is taking the content of a page and trying to sum it up in a single word or phrase. It's essential for SEO planning as it not only describes the page but helps connect searchers to a website. In most circumstances, your primary keyword will be the one with the highest volume, because popular keywords have the potential to attract more traffic.

Search engines like Google and Bing use this to determine which web-content is best for answering a particular search query, and if the page explains the question well, it will rank higher in searches for that specific term.

Does my website need keywords?

Keywords are important to any website looking to attract an audience. The keywords you target--the ones you include in your content, among other things--determine the type of traffic you get. Your keywords are the lynchpin between all the interesting and foolish things that people search for online, and the content that you provide to meet their needs.

Once you have discovered appropriate keywords for your business, you can develop a simple plan of action for optimizing your website and its content to drive traffic using them.

Collect niche keywords

Start by finding niche keywords to guide people to your content. When we say "niche keywords," we are talking about highly specific 'long-tail' keywords – longer and more particular phrases – that pertain to a narrow industry vertical. Your challenge is to identify the right long-tail keywords that are precisely related to your industry and those that your target customer is interested in.

Build topic buckets

An early step is to map out the different topics that your target audience searches for in Google. To kick off the creative process, we'll use the topic bucket approach.

Let's start by picking five main topic areas that you will cover in your content. Each topic is a 'bucket' These buckets are under the larger umbrella of the focus of your website.

For example, if I was planning a blog about running a publishing business. I'd start by picking a handful of subtopics that I want to write about. In this case, topic buckets that relate to publishing might include:

  • Speaking (industry events, workshops, and appearances)
  • Promoting books
  • Consulting

These are the most likely revenue sources, and I can create topic buckets for these 'seed' keywords. This is a valuable way to organize your keywords list into manageable groups.

If you blog regularly, your topics will likely be the ones you blog about most frequently. If your website is up and running, the topics can be guided by the ones that come up the most in sales conversations. At this stage, you need to think, just like your target audience. What types of topics would they search for? Which terms do you want your business to be associated with?

Check the SERPs

Note: In SEO, keywords, and keyword phrases are used interchangeably. A keyword can be just a single word, but it can also be a phrase or a combination of 2+ words.

You should have an idea of the type of products, services, or general topics that you want to optimize your target with your content. You might be tempted to look these up in one of the many keywords tools at this point. Keyword planning tools are useless at giving you anything but extremely closely related keywords. Sticking with our publishing business, Google's Keyword Planner provides us:

You see mainly variations of the broad search term. We are going to leave keyword tools for now and use something we're all familiar with – Google. Start by taking a quick look in Google to see how many pages and the types of pages that are returned for each keyword.

By looking at the SERP, you can identify:

  1. The intention behind the search query. Look at it this way. When you search for a "homemade pizza recipe," you probably don't plan on buying a pizza. Keep this thinking in mind to avoid optimizing for wrong keywords.
  2. Your chance of making any progress with any given search term depends on what's already available on the web. For example, a green business might begin checking Google for "eco-friendly products." Within seconds you're looking at 259 million results. With such high competition, it's not worth your efforts to optimize content for this exact phrase. Hone in on something more specific.

We're now at the point that you have a high-level concept in mind, which we can further drill down from. This step will take much consideration, but once you can separate your unique site from the "pack," your SEO strategy should become clearer.

Brainstorm Part 2 - Do a deep dive

From checking the SERP results for the keyword phrases we brainstormed earlier, some search terms likely sound promising. It's also likely that, as in our example above, there's a great deal of competition, so we need to further refine those ideas.

Taking the topic buckets for our publishing business, let's begin by brainstorming some phrases that you think people would type in about your topic. Those might include:

  • Confident public speaking (for introverts)
  • Marketing an eBook using social media
  • Making money from online publishing
  • Alternatives to print media
  • Finding an agent

The point of this step isn't to come up with your final list of keyword phrases. We'll narrow the listings down later in the process, so you don't have something too unwieldy.

If you're having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, don't forget to tap into any resources you have. How about your customer-facing employees? If you have sales or customer service staff, ask them the common questions they have and the types of terms they use. Those are often high starting points for keyword research. Not to worry if you don't have these resources to tap in to.

How about defining a specific shortcoming within your industry and making your blog focused on finding solutions? Answering questions and getting input from readers about things to talk about is a great idea. "Why do LED bulbs cost so much more than incandescent ones?" for example. We'll cover how to tap into the demands, concerns, and common questions your audience has, later in the article.

Research your topics

If you are not doing any kind of keyword research before creating your content – you will have a tough time ranking for anything. It's now time to turn your niche topics into keywords. This section of our guide explains how to perform niche keyword research.

Reverse engineer your competitors’ content

Comparing your SEO strategy to your competitors is an established practice. Start by looking at your likely competition in the SERPs. Research keywords, find the things that ranking articles write about then 'reverse engineer' the strategies used. This involves taking information from your competitors' content, seeing what's missing, and then providing your expertise to bridge the gap.

Your next port of call is to identify a wide range of potential keywords that, most importantly, include less apparent terms that could drive more traffic or sales. There's a bunch of tools to help with that.

  • Sites like, Yahoo Answers, and Answer the Public are excellent sources of information for tapping into our target audience. What are they interested in? What's a hot topic? What's problematic? For example, If you search "safe habits for active runners" on any of these sites, you'll find people asking about "fitness gadgets for active runners," "special food requirements for active runners," "what are the best sneakers for trail runners".
  • Adding semantic keywords to your content is a good idea. You can use LSI Graph to generate a bunch of beneficial keyword ideas.

Find keywords with Google Keyword Planner

Now we're going to step into the keyword tools, specifically Google Keyword Planner (GKP). There are tons of free SEO tools available to help us make more informed decisions. Without some real, objective data these tools offer, keyword research is a stab in the dark.

With so many keyword tools at your disposal, we'll start with the most popular tool – Google Keyword Planner. This tool alone is enough to generate thousands of potential keywords. To use Google Keyword Planner, you need a Google AdWords account. Follow the prompts, and you'll be set up in a matter of minutes. Next up, log in and follow these instructions:

  • Click on the wrench icon in the options bar at the top of the page—select Keyword Planner.
  • Keyword Planner presents two options: "Find New Keywords" and "Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords."

Find New Keywords

As the name suggests, Find New Keywords is the place for finding new keywords. This tool opens with a field "Enter words, phrases, or a URL related to your business."

GKP has information about pretty much any word imaginable. To get the most out of the planner tool, you need to think strategically about what you enter into this field. If you're drawing a blank, let's break down your options.

  • Words

You can start by entering a few words that describe your business. For example, "mobile hairdresser" or "custom picture frames". This search will bring up keywords for different industries. Scan these keywords carefully; often, you'll find keywords here that won't pop up using the alternative search options.

  • Phrases

Phrases consist of 1-3 keywords, each in a slightly different Niche market. This allows you to access Google's internal database of keywords for a list of closely related terms. Let's say you run a florist e-commerce site, you'd enter terms like "online gifts delivery" and "edible bouquets" here.

  • Business-related URLs

Tapping in an URL related to your business is a strategy primarily for Adwords users. Otherwise, enter pages or articles from your site. Don't forget the homepage! Once you've filled in at least one of the options, hit the "Get Started" button. You're now looking at the Keyword Results page.

Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords

We talked about keyword difficulty and search volume. This is the place to go if you have a long list of keywords, and you want to check out their respective search volume. Copy and paste your list of keywords into the empty field and click "Get Started."

You've fired up the same Keyword Results page that appeared using the "Find new keywords." The difference being, your results here will only offer data on the keywords you entered. Google also provides information on how many clicks and impressions you can expect from these keywords.

Keyword results page

Both tools in GKP take you to the "Keyword Results Page," so you'll want to get your head around how it works. Let's take a look at the page.

Locations, language and search networks

The bars at the top of the page are your targeting options: Locations, Language, and Search Networks. Locations offer you the choice of the country you are marketing to and adapt your keywords to this market. Select the language of the keywords you plan to advertise in. Finally, your Search Networks are where you plan to advertise. For example, the default is "Google." If you plan to advertise on other search engines and Google properties like YouTube, click the Search Partner sites option.

Add Filter

Select Add filter, and you're hit with several filter options. Let's briefly cover them.

  • Keyword text limits your results to contain only keywords that include a specific word or phrase.
  • Exclude Keywords in My account - select this option to exclude keywords you are already bidding on in your Adwords account.
  • Exclude Adult Ideas - I think we can gather what this means.
  • Avg. Monthly Searches - This option helps filter out those competitive keywords, the ones with sky-high search volume. Similarly, you can filter out keywords that don't meet a minimum search volume. For example, you might be targeting keywords with an average monthly search volume above 100 and below 2,000.
  • Ad Impression Share - This filter is another that only applies to Adwords. Since we're doing SEO keyword research, we can ignore this one. Top of Page Bid (low range/ high range) - This option shows how much you can expect to pay for your ad to appear at the top of the page for a keyword. Toggle between the options between the high and low price ranges.
  • Organic Impression Share - This option reveals how often your site appears in organic results for a given keyword. This is a fantastic feature if your website is already up and running. To use this filter, you need to connect your Google Search Account to your Google Adwords account.
  • Organic Average Position - Displays where you rank for each keyword in Google's organic results. This is another one you'll need to connect to GSC to work.

The first column is a keyword (by relevance). These are the keywords Google finds most closely related to the information you typed into it. The Avg. monthly searches column is a rough estimate of search volume. The competition reflects how many advertisers are bidding on any given keyword, and this helps work out commercial intent. Finally, Top of the page bid (low range) and Top of page bid (high range) indicate how lucrative the traffic might be. If you're sizing up a particular keyword's monetization potential, these are the numbers to keep an eye on.

Choose keywords

Now that you've got the tools locked down, and are familiar with the options and features within GKP, we can get down to the aim of the game: finding the right keywords to attract the right users.

Making the best keyword choices takes patience because search engine algorithms are complicated. Many factors go into choosing the right keywords, which is why many SEO specialists say the process is "more of an art than science."

First, navigate back to Find New Keywords Tool. This is where our niche topics list will come in handy. Again, remembering our guidelines for short and long-tail keywords isn't the place for anything too broad or too narrow.

Enter your keyword and hit Get Started. Chances are you're faced with a huge long list of keyword ideas. Which ones to choose? For now, judge each keyword based on the following three criteria.

Search Volume

It's safe to assume any keyword with an above-average search volume is a favorable keyword.

Organic SEO Competition

There's no one-track way to assess keyword competition in Google's organic search results. Refer to the Keyword Competition section of this article to help with that.

Commercial Intent

In general, the higher the competition and suggested bid, the easier it will be to convert prospects into paying customers. We’ll look more into this topic later.

Tricks of the trade

If you're new to Keyword Planner, the results it throws up are pretty cool, right? Well, like most things, GKP isn't perfect. For one, you'll only get keywords exceptionally closely related to your original search term. Let's say you Google "organic protein bars." You'll get a list like this:

Many results on the list will be variations of your original search inquiry. Close changes can be eliminated immediately because you do not need to repeat similar phrases repeatedly. One way to help choose the best options is to compare the results to words used on related websites.

Head over to the Find New Keywords tool. Instead of entering keywords or a phrase, pop in the website address (URL) of a competing website in your niche. Hit Get Started and you're served a fantastic array of keywords. This trick can be used on any content you find relevant, from blog posts to conference agendas, press releases, news stories, and works. Anything with pertinent text is viable.

Now we're at a nice stage where we've got a sizable list of potential keywords. Next up, we're going to look for long-tail keywords. We're going to step away from GKP for this bit. Google's tool gives us the same keywords everyone else can see, making them instantly more competitive. We can get around this problem using long-tail keywords.

At this point you need to ask yourself:

  • Is each keyword relevant to your site's content?
  • Will the people searching the internet find exactly what they are looking for on your website when they enter your Google keywords?
  • Will the traffic generated help you achieve your company goals?

Think about the answers from a customer's perspective. If you're certain you can answer these questions with a resounding "yes," it's time to dig deeper into true value.

Understanding keyword competition

Check the competition – if well-known brand sites consume the SERP, you'll have a tough time competing. That's why it's always best to evaluate your keyword competition.

How do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, you ask? Aside from manually searching for keywords in an incognito browser and seeing what positions your competitors are in, SEMrush allows you to run a number of free reports that show you the top keywords for the domain you enter.

Just because your competitor is doing something doesn't mean you need to. The same goes for keywords. Just because a keyword is important to your competitor doesn't mean it's important to you. However, understanding what keywords your competitors are trying to rank for is a great way to give your list of keywords another evaluation.

If your competitor is ranking for specific keywords that are on your list, too, it makes sense to work on improving your ranking for those. However, don't ignore the ones your competitors don't seem to care about. This could be a great opportunity for you to own market share on essential terms, too.

Understanding the balance of terms that might be a little more difficult due to competition, versus those that are a little more realistic, will help you maintain a similar balance that the mix of long-tail and head terms allow. Remember, the goal is to end up with a list of keywords that provide some quick wins but also helps you make progress toward bigger, more challenging SEO goals.

How to judge keyword value

To evaluate keywords, you need to understand two basic principles: traffic and competition. Traffic refers to the number of people who search for this keyword each month, while competition refers to the number of other sites trying to rank well for this keyword.

It's harder to rank for highly competitive keywords because big businesses have already established a firm ranking. If big brands take the top 10 results and you are just starting on the web, the uphill battle for page one rankings can take years of effort. This is why it's essential to research keyword difficulty.

Check the competition

Performing a live search for the term or phrase in a couple of major search engines will tell you whether it's a lucrative term. Telltale signs for a high-value keyword include search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results and search advertisements directly above the organic results. This placement means other companies already know this is a massive conversion keyword.

Buy test traffic

If you're a new site or an existing site and not yet ranking for a keyword, Google Ads lets you buy test traffic to see how well it converts before you try to rank it organically.

Determine if the keyword is valuable to you

Assume your search advertising efforts generated 8,000 impressions in 24 hours, of which 600 visitors have come to your site, and eight converted to a sale leaving your total net profit at $300. In this case, each visitor who converted for that keyword is worth $37.50 to your business. Those 8,000 impressions in one day could generate an acceptable click-through rate over time,  and a high ranking.

Strategies for finding long-tail keywords

As mentioned previously, long-tail keywords are the key to succeeding with a niche website. Let's cover the best strategies for finding long-tail keywords that work for any niche.

Type anything in on Google, and you'll find the "searches related to" section at the bottom of the page. Do this for articles and keywords, and you'll find a list of other search queries related to your original phrase. While these are handy, the ones to watch out for are any that include complimentary words and phrases that are not already on your list.

Forums and boards

Think about where your target audience hangs out online. Seek out their forums and discussion rooms, If you don't know any, simply append the words "forum," "board," or "discussions" to some of your top keywords. Forums are organized into sections, and each of these is like a niche topic. Read these conversations, and see what subjects are being discussed.

The results will include forums as well as questions and answer sites like Quora and Yahoo! Answers. Before you start browsing the conversations, check that the forum is active and has recent activity. The categories themselves are usually top seed keywords that you can research using the Google Keyword Planner.

For example, in a coffee forum, click on a category and check out some of the thread topics. Clicking on things such as "Equipment" and" Espresso Discussions" will give you heaps of useful insights.

In a few clicks, I found four keywords that people interested in coffee are using to search. This is precisely the type of material we need to help understand the niche.


Quora is a popular crowdsourced Q&A site. You need a Quora account to use the site, but the service is free. Once you are registered and logged in, type in a broad keyword in the search bar, such as “organic dog food”.

Like forums, Quora will show you the most popular questions on that topic. Some of the items will be high-volume keywords, while others might help you brainstorm new keyword ideas in your niche.

For example, the phrase "where can I get reliable organic dog food" is probably too long to be a popular keyword. Still, interest in the general topic is likely to be healthy. This is where Quora shines by giving you laterally related keywords and topic ideas that you may not have thought of on your own.

Soovle is a great free tool for mining Long Tail Keywords. Suggestions include results from all over the web, including Wikipedia,, Amazon, Google Suggest, and many more.

Soovle is straightforward. To use this tool, enter a keyword into the search field. Try and keep it broad for the best results. For example, you are a blogger researching an article on 'mid-century design.' Enter this keyword phrase for a neat list of achievements, including keyword 'ideas' from websites your competition may have overlooked.

Answer The Public

Use Answer The Public to uncover question-focused keywords. If I search a keyword phrase for my product, for example, ‘car roof rack’ I can discover the types of keywords that can drive some really useful content.

To get started, head to the site and type your keyword into the “new search” field, then hit “Get Questions”. For ‘car roof rack’ I get five useful with word-results maps.

42 common questions About the product, such as ‘how to remove car roof rack’.

81 prepositions Things I’d use it with e.g. ‘car roof racks for kayaks’.

27 comparisons Refining words for location, near me, with storage.

423 alphabeticals Phrases starting with ‘car roof rack accessories’ and onwards.

20 related Other products I can use it with e.g. ‘car roof rack pads’.

The tool is recommended for digging into a broader scale of low volume questions people tend to ask about your topic.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Trends is a gem among keyword research tools. This Google-powered website analyzes the popularity of top Google search queries over time. Search for specific keywords, phrases, and subjects and see how they have historically been searched for in Google.

Let's say we have a huge budget for a Google Ads campaign. Wouldn't it be better to know what's what with the keyword? Has public interest piqued, or is it growing? The tool is intuitive; just enter the keyword you're researching into the search field. Your results will show "interest over time"- This is based on search volume and news headlines over up to five years.

Many know that Google's 'glasses' weren't a huge success. Search volume trailed off almost as soon as the product landed. Checking Google Trends for this term clearly illustrates this. The image below shows that interest in the keyword "Google glass" picked up suddenly and quickly now tapered off:

Let's look at trends for the more current keyword "wearable tech."

Since popularity has consistently grown over time, this could be a good set of words to target.

For extra points, scroll down the page to "Related Queries." The keywords here are potentially lucrative, and you won't find these in the regular GKP.

Commercial intent

Now we're going to select the best long-tail keywords for driving your SEO strategy. How might you ask? Using an often forgotten process in selecting keywords: sizing up each keyword's commercial intent. 

A common mistake in keyword research is a lack of time spent exploring commercial intent. This is the process of determining the difference between words commonly searched by mere browsers, and those used by customers who are ready to buy. Most SEO wizards agree that commercial intent comes before search volume when it comes down to choosing keywords.

Your site might be getting ten thousand unique visitors per month from organic traffic alone, but only bringing in a few hundred dollars. Why? In many cases, it's because you focused on search volume while ignoring user intent. This is when most of your traffic comes from information seekers that are tough to convert into paying customers.

Fortunately — with a little bit of research — you can easily find keywords that buyers use to search. When it comes to commercial intent, all of the millions of keywords out there can be placed into four categories: Buy-now, product, informational, and so-called tire-kicker keywords.

Buy-now and Product keywords

The two main categories with high commercial intent are Buy Now and Product keywords. These categories refer to a user's stage in the buying cycle. For example, Buy Now signals that someone is ready to buy something - right now. Their minds are made up and are likely searching online for the most attractive offer that meets their expectations. People seeking Buy Now keywords may already have their credit card in their hand.

Seek out Buy Now keywords like:

Buy"Buy cushions online."
Discount(s)“Organic protein discount”
Free shipping"Barcelona chair free shipping"
Deal(s)“Web hosting deals”
Coupon(s)"Dominos pizza coupons"

As you can expect, these types of keywords convert well. They may not all get great search volume, but their sky-high conversion rate makes up for it.

Product keywords are the next most valuable category. Any set of terms that includes a brand name, shopping category, or specific service is considered a Product keyword. In terms of the buying cycle, people using these keywords aren't as primed to purchase as those using Buy Now keywords. The highest converting Product keywords tend to include:

Branded name searches"Nike" "Apple"
Specific products"MacBook Pro" "iPhone X" "Samsung 55" OLED TV"
Product categories"Winter coats" "WordPress hosting" "skiing equipment"
Cheap/ Cheapest"Cheap car rental" "Cheapest laptops"
Affordable"Affordable a/c units" "Affordable perfume"
Best"Best washer dryer"
Review"Water filter reviews" "Brita water filter review"
Comparison"HD vs. OLED TV comparison"
Top“Top 10 eBook websites”

While optimizing for "cheap" and "affordable" doesn't always seem appealing, searches using these terms convert well. Think about it from a customer's point of view. If I ask Google for cheap smartwatches, I've decided that I a) want a smartwatch, and b) I'm looking for one within my price range. Similarly, "review" and "comparison" keywords might seem a bit weak compared to the others, but there is a clear intent to purchase here.

Informational keywords

The internet is, by and large, populated with Informational Keywords. These include word groups like "The best way to," "how to," and "I need to." These don't convert as well, because people looking for information need much stronger reasons to switch to purchase mode.

While your focus is on converting keywords, informational keywords can help support the conversion drivers. Some content like blog posts that answer your visitors' common questions can bring in traffic and introduce people to your brand, while product and buy now keywords belong on the product pages.

Tire-kicker keywords

Word groups that are unlikely to draw in serious buyers are referred to as Tire-kicker Keywords. This is a reference to car buyers who show up on the lot who are just interested in looking at cars. Instead of negotiating with the salesperson, they just walk around kicking tires. Relevant keywords from this category to avoid will include things like "free," "torrent," "download," and "win."

We can safely assume that someone searching for "watch Game of Thrones online free" isn't interested in buying anything, making it a Tire-kicker. Customers who seek using phrases that fall into the other three categories, however, might make a purchase.

Buy Game of Thrones TV EpisodesBuy Now keyword
Game of Thrones DVDsProduct keyword
How to watch Game of ThronesInformational keyword

As you can see, these keywords will logically convert at a higher rate.

Once you've got a list of high commercial intent keywords, check the keywords in your Adwords account. Have you got any high commercial intent keywords that are in your top 10? If not, add some. Instead of comparing yourself to the top performers for this keyword, think about how much better your conversion rate will be using some of these keywords.

Advanced keyword resources

Let's take a few advanced keyword research tools that offer insights far beyond what is available from Google's Keyword Planner.

Many marketers professionals consider SEMrush the most powerful SEO tool available. It can be used to gain an edge through a variety of ingenious options to track your competitors. SEMRush provides anyone with data insights to increase their search ranking and organic traffic. The premium database includes over 35 million keywords and phrases that can be used to drive traffic to your websites. At the time of writing, you need to pay to use SEMRush, but you can try before you buy.

 Online marketer and SEO expert Neil Patel acquired Ubersuggest and relaunched it as part of his website. In a climate where GKP has restricted the amount of data shown for individual keywords, Ubersuggest stood out for the volume of free data offered with a much simpler and user-friendly interface.

For someone using free tools to assess keyword volume, Ubersuggest can help with that. It pulls in more than keyword data alone, providing difficulty numbers for organic SEO and Cost Per Click should you venture in that direction in the future. Enter a keyword in the search field, select a format such as web, news, purchases, or images, and Ubersuggest will return a list of suggestions.

Wordtracker is more than a keyword research tool; it's a powerhouse for market research. Wordtracker is more than your bog-standard keyword research tool; it's also pretty great for market research. Take in-depth price per click and SEO insights, observe your competitors' keywords and, more.

Unlike Google Keywords Planner, which is designed for Google Ads, not SEO, Wordtracker is built for keyword research. GKW only gives information about the competition and many other metrics for paid search.

While both tools offer 'search trends' you get more with Wordtracker. Check actual (not grouped keywords), get 10,000 keywords per search, Amazon keywords, YouTube keywords, negative keyword search, SERP comparison, related/ lateral search, and much more. With this toolset, your pages can be optimized to outrank your competition. Choose from three-tiered plans, each comes with a risk-free 7-day trial and paying annuals snips 40% off the fee.

Moz is not only a marketing analytics software developer but an authority on content marketing backed by the largest community of SEOs on the planet. Built from this collective knowledge, the Keyword Explorer tool from Moz is first-rate. It is designed to improve how SEOs discover and prioritize keywords.

Features include an estimated click-through rate and a gauge of how difficult it might be to rank for a given keyword. It also provides accurate monthly search volume data and suggests related keywords. The free version will help you cut down on a lot of manual work, so Keyword Explorer is a great starting point for new SEO research.

Keyword Explorer is a paid tool offering a low-cost 7-day trial, currently for just $7. Within moments of launching, you can access promising keyword ideas from a database of over 4 billion. This potent tool includes accurate keyword metrics and insights, such as how often people click on the results of different searches.

Ahref Keyword Explorer generates ideas in 4 different ways: Also rank for, Having the same terms, Phrase match, and Search suggestions. These variations can help you stumble upon new terms and topics.

SEO experts consider Longtail PRO one of the best research tools available. Features include keyword profitability calculations so you can check out what's working for your competitors. This is a paid service, but the 7-day free trial should be more than enough time to cover your initial keyword research. Longtail even offers quick tips on its homepage for getting the most out of the tool.

Scrapebox offers the same thing as Ubersuggest, only with this paid tool, you get extra filtering tools to delete duplicate keywords, and you can download your results to CSV files (define). You also get way more results than with UberSuggest.

If you have an existing website, you might find that the best keyword you can target is one where you are already ranking. You might be surprised to find a handful of your pages are ranking on the first few pages in Google's SERPs for keywords that you're not even optimizing for.

Check which keywords your web pages currently rank for. If the results include valuable keywords that you aren't targeting, incorporate them into your on-page SEO.

How to use keywords on your website

Now that you have your list of keywords, you can formulate a strong content strategy. This should include website layout, content topics, product titles, and anything that includes lines or blocks of text. A tip that will come in handy when planning your content is to create a keyboard map. This will keep track of where keywords appear on individual pages. For help with your content layout, read our guide to basic site architecture.

Planning your on-page strategy is about more than assigning keywords to pages. The context of each phrase also matters.

If you flood your pages with too many keywords, search engines might assume that you're a spammer. If your website has few mentions of topical keywords, search engines may not index your site correctly. The primary focus should be on creating high-quality content that's unique and relevant to your readers, using the language and keywords that they are searching for. Avoid publishing content that seems forced, robotic, or disingenuous. When you optimize content for your desired users, and not only the keywords, you can't go wrong.

Measuring Success

When you have figured out your SEO keyword strategy and your ultimate goals, you can measure its success. Search engine optimization doesn't stop once your content is published. To improve, you need to constantly test and experiment. It's essential to familiarize yourself with your keyword strategy outcomes. Google Search Console (GSC) is excellent for tracking keyword performance information.

The best way to know whether your SEO strategy is succeeding is to measure it at least twice: once before you implemented your SEO strategy and then again once your content strategy has kicked in. Your website will have its own unique goals and next, we'll cover a few goals and how to measure them. 

View Only Organic Search Traffic

Your first step is to isolate traffic data to organic channels only and limit the search engine share of referring visits. In GSC, simply change the channel grouping report to Organic. This will give you a more detailed report, which includes only organic search traffic metrics.

Key indicators of whether your keywords are working for you are checking for the following:

  • In GSC Search Console “Search Results” find the data for Clicks and Views referred by Specific Search Engine Terms and Phrases.
  • Conversion Rate by Search Query Term/Phrase for traffic from Organic Search.
  • The number of pages receiving at least one visit from search engines.

With Google Console reports, we can determine lots of exciting things. The insights include the top keywords driving the most clicks to your pages. 

With Google Analytics you can find out which search engines are sending the most traffic to your site. You'll also find the top landing pages for search traffic, and which pages people are most likely to be on when they exit your site.

Goals - Are you meeting yours?


If your SEO strategy is to encourage more traffic to your site, you should track how many unique visitors you received within a period. If your organic traffic from search engines increases, it's safe to say that your SEO strategy is effective. 

Purchases by page

Similarly, if your goal is increasing the purchases made on your site, you'll want to use Google Analytics to determine the value of sales generated by specific pages.

Time spent on site

Other goals might be encouraging people to stay longer on your website or read more articles. In this case, the metric you need is "time spent on your site." 


If you're interested in people visiting you repeatedly, you'll measure return visitors vs. new ones. 

As you can see, how you measure the success of your SEO strategy largely depends on the goals of your content strategy.

Reporting Tools

Reporting changes in your keywords SERP ranking is the only way of keeping tabs of how well they are performing. If you target multiple keywords, it's useful to create a spreadsheet and note the progress of each keyword daily. You can also save time and use reporting automation and analysis tools such as DashThis, SEOmator, or Reportz.

These tools cut down on your time spent reviewing Analytics so you can get on with running your website, or mapping out your future keyword strategy. Get the metrics you need and visualize them in the form you want, from a simple spreadsheet to a pie chart or graph.

If you work for someone else, reporting is more critical to your role. Perhaps your management is skeptical about SEO or your strategies, or your stakeholders need some convincing. Presenting well is the best way to get across easily digestible SEO data to anyone that's not an internet marketer or an SEO expert by trade.

Recap - Finding the best keywords for your website

So there we have it. By now you are a keyword powerhouse. We’ve gone through a lot so let’s take a look at what’s involved in finding keywords and making them work for your website.

  • Find your niche - check the SERPS - Examine the keywords your website/ niche topics rank for
  • Research your topics - Use tools to find out what people are asking about your niche
  • Introduction to SEO tools - find keywords using Google Keyword Planner
  • Check the value of your keywords - are they worth having?
  • Dig out long-tail keywords checking forums, boards, and keyword tools
  • Don't fall foul of this one - Check for commercial intent
  • Can you rank for a keyword? Look into your competition
  • Find pages to optimize for using analytics tools
  • Use keywords on your website, deliberately
  • Monitor your change in rankings and traffic

Et Voila, you’re done!


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Ruth G.

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